Hans Rosbaud

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Hans Rosbaud

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Hans Rosbaud


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Hans Rosbaud, internationally acclaimed conductor, was born in Graz, Austria on July 22, 1895. A superb musician and possessor of an unimpeachable personal integrity, Rosbaud managed to survive the Nazi era and World War II to emerge as one of the most respected musicians of the post-war international music scene. Rosbaud's earliest musical training was with his mother, herself an accomplished pianist. After completion of his academic education, which emphasized the study of classical languages and culture, Rosbaud entered Dr. Hoch's Conservatory in Frankfurt am Main and distinguished himself as a pianist, composer and conductor. His teachers were Bernhard Sekles (Composition) and Alfred Hoehn (Piano). Paul Hindemith was one of his fellow students at the Conservatory.

In 1921 Rosbaud began his professional career in Mainz, having been chosen as the youngest from a field of 80 candidates to become the director of the newly-formed municipal School of Music and conductor of the municipal symphony concerts. Within a few years the School of Music developed an excellent reputation in Germany and eventually became an Academy of Music. Rosbaud became musical director and principal conductor of the orchestra of Radio Frankfurt in 1928. His extensive activity in Frankfurt and the consistent quality of his conducting broadened his sphere of influence and increased his renown. Of particular significance was his fostering of contemporary music, which soon made Frankfurt a center for activity in this field. The great masters of new music--Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg, Bela Bartok, Igor Stravinsky, Anton Webern and Paul Hindemith--were regular participants in the Radio Frankfurt concerts at this time. Rosbaud conducted the premieres of the Bartok Second Piano Concerto (with the composer as soloist), Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, Hindemith's Concerto for Brass and Strings and Schoenberg's Variations Op. 31, among many other works.

With the establishment of the fascist regime in Germany, Rosbaud found himself under steadily growing political and artistic pressure and in 1937 he left his position in Frankfurt to become the general director of musical activities in Muenster, Westphalia. His responsibilities included orchestral and chamber-music concerts and conducting the opera. His performances of the oratorio and operatic repertory received particular recognition. After four years in Muenster, Rosbaud assumed the position of general music director in Strassburg (Alsace) which had been annexed into the German Reich. Despite the considerable difficulties placed in his way by the regime, musical life in Strassburg flourished under Rosbaud's direction. His persistent efforts on behalf of members of his orchestra who suffered persecution by the authorities won him the respect and support of the population. Rosbaud was the first conductor from Germany to be invited to France after the war, and he was warmly received on that occasion. In 1944/1945 he held the position of conductor with the Radio Orchestra Munich at Bayreuth.

After the war, in 1945, the U.S. Military Government in Germany asked Rosbaud to assume the position of conductor of the Munich Philharmonic. Thanks to his inexhaustible energy and unfailing devotion to his work, and despite the unbelievable circumstances he faced in a nearly-destroyed city, he succeeded in building a musical life in Munich whose vitality and high quality were unexcelled in Germany at that time. In accomplishing this he was given fullest support by the U.S. authorities.

In 1948 Rosbaud left Munich to become general music director and first conductor of the Suedwestfunk Orchestra in Baden-Baden. In 1950 he also became conductor of the well-known Tonhalle Orchestra of Zurich and the Zurich Opera. His successes with the Suedwestfunk (SWF) in particular put his career on an international basis. Rosbaud's activities as a champion of contemporary music won him international recognition, and his ensemble participated regularly in the Donaueschingen Festival of Contemporary Music to considerable acclaim. Rosbaud was annually invited to conduct at the prestigious Aix-en-Provence Festival as well. Guest engagements with nearly all major European orchestras followed and Rosbaud made several concert tours abroad, notably to Argentina, Turkey, the Union of South Africa and the United States. Before his death in Carabietta, Switzerland, December 29, 1962, Rosbaud had established himself as a regular guest conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic.

Hans Rosbaud was considered by some to be the outstanding conductor of his generation. He was the recipient of numerous awards and honors in recognition of his unique contribution to the world of music. One of his most sensational successes was in conducting the world premiere of Arnold Schoenberg's formidable opera-oratorio Moses und Aron in Hamburg in 1954, a feat he undertook on only eight days notice.

From the guide to the Hans Rosbaud Papers, 1899-1973, (Washington State University Libraries Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC))



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